On April 13, 2016, Kobe Bryant fans filled Staples Center located in Los Angeles, California, for what many thought would be the last time they would get to cheer for the Laker legend. Nearly four years later, on February 24, 2020, Staples was at capacity again for Bryant, but this time, no one wanted to be there.
They called it "A Celebration of Life." A fitting name for someone who lived so bold and to the fullest. Twenty thousand supporters, former peers, and loved ones flooded the Staples Center in what was the last time they all got to be fans. Chants broke loose when silence took over; "Kobe! Kobe! Kobe! Kobe!" It was like old times.
Tears flowed throughout the house that Kobe built, especially when Vanessa Bryant approached the mic. In her 41 minute speech, the loving wife touched on how her daughter Gianna Bryant or "Gigi" was the glue for the Bryants. "Gigi was very sweet. She always made sure everyone was OK. She was our shepherd. She always kept our family together," Vanessa remarked. Everyone cried at the same time. Then, Vanessa revealed how romantic Kobe was, in that he gave her "the actual notebook and the blue dress Rachel McAdams wore in The Notebook movie." The world even witnessed a side of Michael Jordan never seen before.
"When Kobe Bryant died, a piece of me died, and as I look at this arena and across the globe, a piece of you died," Jordan said weepingly.
Jimmy Kimmel, who hosted the event, attempted to trigger smiles from the audience when he could, but the grins were fleeting. Even with superstar Beyoncé opening the whole thing up with heavenly performances of her singles, "XO" and "Halo," everyone still felt the dark cloud above their heads. The fact remained a hero who showed everyone what 20 years of devotion looked like, was gone. "I'm here because I love Kobe," Beyoncé told the crowd, "and that was one of his favorite songs."
The five-time champion, father, friend, and so much more may not be on this Earth anymore, but the values and memories he left behind will continue to inspire those who aspire for more. Mamba out, but never forgotten.